The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

He Gets His Wings Tonight!

Posted on | May 17, 2013 | 49 Comments

The back of this T-shirt asks, ‘What do you do?’

So the final jump of Airborne school was supposed to happen Thursday night and graduation was supposed to be noon Friday. But the C-130 was grounded by mechanical problems, so my Army son didn’t get to make his fifth jump until about 5 p.m. Friday, and the graduation is supposed to happen about 10 p.m. tonight.

He finally got to be first out of the plane on this jump. Private McCain was Number 15 in his “chalk” and was supposed to jump first, but they kept messing around with the jump order, and he didn’t get to be first man out of the plane until this time. The jump was “awesome,” he reports, although the landing was the hardest yet, but he was uninjured and so he made it through.

Saturday, about noon, Private McCain boards a bus for Fort Bragg, where he reports for Special Operations Preparation Course (SOPC), which is designed to get him ready for Special Forces Assessment/Assignment and Selection (SFAS). These are extremely rigorous courses, and the attrition rate is very high. But he’s made it through basic, advanced infantry and now Airborne school, so he’s already pretty doggone elite.

Eventually, I hope to get my own T-shirt: “I Could Tell You What My Son Does for a Living … But Then I’d Have to Kill You.”








49 Responses to “He Gets His Wings Tonight!”

  1. pacoent
    May 17th, 2013 @ 9:17 pm

    Congratulations to this young warrior, and God prosper him in his career.

  2. benning
    May 17th, 2013 @ 9:25 pm

    Well done! 😀

  3. dkmkc2000
    May 17th, 2013 @ 9:26 pm

    RT @smitty_one_each: TOM He Gets His Wings Tonight! #TCOT

  4. Dandapani
    May 17th, 2013 @ 9:43 pm

    No higher calling than give oneself in service of country. Thank him and I think you.

  5. mojo
    May 17th, 2013 @ 9:57 pm

    Land Nav! Oh, joy.

  6. JeffS
    May 17th, 2013 @ 10:07 pm


  7. JeffS
    May 17th, 2013 @ 10:09 pm

    Land nav on steroids, mojo. Not to mention sleep and food deprivation, with by sadistic sergeants on the side.

  8. JeffS
    May 17th, 2013 @ 10:10 pm

    That should be “with counseling by”, up there.

    Looks like I need a nap….

  9. Neverbetter
    May 17th, 2013 @ 10:17 pm

    Much to be proud of. Please thank him for us.

  10. bobbymike34
    May 17th, 2013 @ 10:18 pm

    That is awesome good luck at SOPC!!

  11. Lefim
    May 17th, 2013 @ 10:28 pm

    Of course, this means y’all will have spend his first leave on the town and belting out this paratrooper ballad (Blood on the Risers):

  12. JeffWeimer
    May 17th, 2013 @ 10:32 pm

    My stepson just finished FMTB yesterday. He’ll be a Combat Corpsman with the Marines. So proud, is this Senior Chief.

  13. Robert Evans
    May 17th, 2013 @ 10:38 pm


  14. robertstacymccain
    May 17th, 2013 @ 10:59 pm

    Ah … not my favorite song.

  15. Publius Redux
    May 17th, 2013 @ 11:08 pm

    They recruit straight to SF? Huh. Times have changed. If he fails SFAS, (not trying to be a dick, just a realist), what will his MOS be?

  16. John LaRosa
    May 17th, 2013 @ 11:13 pm


  17. Christy Waters
    May 17th, 2013 @ 11:24 pm


  18. richard mcenroe
    May 17th, 2013 @ 11:27 pm

    Best of luck to him, Stacy, but if it comes to it, the world can never have too many Rangers.

  19. Patriot
    May 18th, 2013 @ 12:20 am

    Congrats. I am certainly proud of him. As I grow older, I understand the immense sacrifice he is making to protect my children.

  20. Bob Belvedere
    May 18th, 2013 @ 12:21 am

    Congrats to him and you and your family.

  21. Bob Belvedere
    May 18th, 2013 @ 12:22 am

    Please convery congratulations from Mrs. B. and me, and our grateful thanks to him for what he’s doing for us.

  22. JeffWeimer
    May 18th, 2013 @ 12:38 am


  23. Shawny Lee
    May 18th, 2013 @ 1:45 am

  24. Adjoran
    May 18th, 2013 @ 2:17 am

    Fantastic! Congratulations and thanks to our new Warrior – and also to his parents, who rightfully share his pride. The Army can only work with the raw recruits they are delivered, and you deserve credit for raising a young man of character and strength and patriotism.

    “We sleep peacefully in our beds at night only with the knowledge that rough men stand ready to do violence on our behalf.”

    God bless and keep him and his comrades at arms.

  25. Adjoran
    May 18th, 2013 @ 2:23 am

    Congratulations to him and you and his mother! And ditto the kudos in my comment to McCain below.

    I was an Army stepdad myself, and understand the unique challenges of that role, in my case especially the frustration of the teenager talks about potential and achievement and putting yourself to work on goals, and am proud to report all my expectations were far exceeded – and in no small part due to service.

  26. Russ Emerson
    May 18th, 2013 @ 3:18 am


    My dad always used to introduce me to his friends as “my son, the spy.” Kinda awkward.

  27. Chap
    May 18th, 2013 @ 4:41 am


  28. benning
    May 18th, 2013 @ 6:50 am

    Congrats! 😀

  29. benning
    May 18th, 2013 @ 6:51 am


  30. robertstacymccain
    May 18th, 2013 @ 9:31 am

    You should be able to edit your comments if you’re commenting with Disqus, Jeff.

  31. robertstacymccain
    May 18th, 2013 @ 9:47 am

    Having watched documentaries about both, it seems to me that the Ranger course is every bit as rough as SFAS. For some reason — and I don’t know what the reason is — SF seems to require a helluva lot of land-navigation training. In general, although both courses are physically demanding and intentionally designed to have high attrition rates, I think SF seeks a more brainiac type.

    Not coincidentally, I was reading a lifer’s brief account of his own SFAS experience: He lasted five days and left with two sprained ankles. That means he survived the initial endurance/sleep-deprivation phase — where most of the withdrawals occur — and was able to tough it out with one sprained ankle, but two sprained ankles … not so much.

    Sent my son an e-mail last night that included the advice: “Watch your step.” SFAS is an ordeal that even extremely fit soldiers may not be able to endure, but I’d hate to see him tough it through the worst part, then get dropped due to injury. So lace those boots up carefully, boy, and watch your step.

  32. Garym
    May 18th, 2013 @ 10:21 am

    Congratulations and thank him for his service.

  33. Ginny Ray
    May 18th, 2013 @ 10:24 am


  34. robertstacymccain
    May 18th, 2013 @ 12:07 pm

    Congratulations, Jeff.

  35. Odin
    May 18th, 2013 @ 12:32 pm

    As a former 18D myself, please thank your son for his service.

  36. robertstacymccain
    May 18th, 2013 @ 12:50 pm

    11B — infantry.

    I’m like you. I’d never heard of the 18X program until my son started telling me about it and, as I’ve explained, I didn’t actually believe it: “Yeah, right — a lot of Army recruiter talk.” My older brother signed up in ’76 with the promise they’d train him as a mechanic, and ended up in a mortar crew with the 101st Airborne. Army recruiters will say anything to get the kid’s name on the contract, so I didn’t take it seriously when my son started telling me about this deal.

    But, yes, if a recruit is physically fit and scores high enough on the ASVAB — my son was a Red Cross certified lifeguard and scored 98 out of 99 ASVAB — then he qualifies for 18X, which guarantees him a chance at SFAS, if he successfully completes everything along the way: Basic, AIT, Airborne and SOPC. (18X’s go through Basic and AIT combined as OSUT: One Station Unit Training.)

    Getting through SFAS is the real challenge, obviously, although the attrition starts at Basic and continues all along the way. There were a surprising number who failed fitness tests at the start of Airborne school, for instance.

    One soldier at Benning (who was there for Airborne school) told me, “They’re handing out [18X] like penny candy these days” — a bit of an exaggeration, although reflecting a fact: With downsizing in the regular combat forces, the Army seems to be thinking that there will be more need for Special Forces in the future. And the 18X program is a really attractive recruiting incentive to the Prime Beef: Smart, athletic, highly-motivated kids who, even if they don’t make it all the way to SF, will raise the average quality of the ranks. In an all-volunteer force, attracting quality recruits is very important in terms of maintaining morale and readiness. A few years ago, my childhood friend Scotty, who made it to Master Chief, filled my ear with complaints about the low quality of new troops the Navy was sending him circa 2008. Evidently, standards were being lowered and recruiters were scraping the bottom of the barrel.

    Anyway, my understanding is that my son’s Airborne class (roughly 400 troops) included about 80 SOPC candidates. The ones who make it through SOPC will then be put in “hold” while other classes cycle through SOPC, and then this fall, they’ll all enter SFAS together: Veterans from the ranks and 18X’s. Don’t know how large the average SFAS class is but (a) the entering candidates are all top-quality troops, and (b) the number who graduate is drastically smaller than the number who begin the course. And, of course, completing SFAS would really be just the beginning for my son, who would then have to complete another two years of classes (including language school) and make sergeant before he would be full-fledged SF.

  37. robertstacymccain
    May 18th, 2013 @ 1:04 pm

    Heh — my son wants to be 18D, too, medical training being something more useful for a civilian career than humping a ruck and firing an M240.

  38. Dan Carroll
    May 18th, 2013 @ 1:16 pm

    Airborne, pshaw…real men pull their own cords. Basic free fall at USAFA, now that’s the way to do it.

    Seriously though, your boy’s been through a hell of a ride. Congratulations to him.

    USAFA ’93
    Go Air Force beat Army (and Navy)

  39. Odin
    May 18th, 2013 @ 1:17 pm

    Its the best position to have on a team IMO. If he’s lucky (like I was) he’ll be assigned Mandarin. Just kidding, that was terrible. Its a long long road and he will have friends that will go off to teams while he is still undergoing medic training. There is in fact a light at the end of the tunnel. Once he gets out, he’ll have a lot of opportunities that the other positions wont have. I am applying to Med School this summer and have a huge advantage over traditional candidates. For now, he just needs to put his head down and get through selection.

  40. DaveO
    May 18th, 2013 @ 1:55 pm

    Congratulations to PFC McCain! Welcome to the club 🙂

  41. Taxpayer1234
    May 18th, 2013 @ 3:34 pm

    Congrats to Private McCain! And what a great day to get his wings–Armed Forces Day!

  42. richard mcenroe
    May 18th, 2013 @ 8:53 pm

    Special Forces are oriented towards working with, training and leading locals; Rangers are oriented towards kinetically encouraging locals to do what we want in exchange for limited and moderated continued respiration opportunities.

  43. K-Bob
    May 18th, 2013 @ 11:18 pm

    Congrats to Pvt. McCain and the family, and thanks for their service!

  44. richard mcenroe
    May 18th, 2013 @ 11:35 pm

    You clearly don’t live in my neighborhood.

  45. richard mcenroe
    May 18th, 2013 @ 11:36 pm

    Air Force? You mean those guys who won’t parachute until they’re blown out of their plane by a bomb under the seat?

  46. richard mcenroe
    May 19th, 2013 @ 12:12 am

    I don’t care if it is the 21st century. Sooner or later some butterbar or Spec4 will drop the GPS.

  47. Quartermaster
    May 19th, 2013 @ 7:56 am

    Heh! My son’s T-shirt said, “Bomb Technician. If you see me running, try to keep up.”

    These days he holds an MSEE and is a Controls Engineer. A pursuit more closely in line with Dad’s desire to see him remain in one piece.

  48. Good Stuff
    May 19th, 2013 @ 8:26 am

    it’s not a job… it’s an adventure!


  49. Bob Belvedere
    May 19th, 2013 @ 6:03 pm

    And God bless the Scots-Irish.